Attendance Awareness Kick Off  

2019 PSA

Educators and community partners came together this morning at North High School to kick off School Attendance Awareness Month and call attention to a local effort to raise awareness about chronic absenteeism and the value of regular school attendance.

In Kern County, more than 12 percent of all students in grades K through 12 miss 18 or more days of school — that is equal to more than 24,000 students across the county, said Mary Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools. Those stats make Kern County students chronically absent at a higher rate than the California average.

“Simply put, good attendance is one of the most important factors in determining a student’s success in school, and ultimately in life,” Barlow said. “When children aren’t in their seats, they simply do not have an opportunity to learn. When they are not learning, they fall further and further behind as the years go by.”

Consider these facts:

  • 83 percent of students chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade cannot read on-level by third grade.
  • By 7th grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
  • High school drops outs are less likely to qualify for gainful employment and are more likely to be incarcerated and on public assistance programs.

Two groups made up of educators and law enforcement and community partners — the Truancy Reduction & Attendance Coalition of Kern (TRACK) and the Kern Education Pledge Attendance Workgroup — are working collaboratively to identify the root causes of chronic absenteeism throughout the county so that meaningful strategies can be developed and introduced over time. Early indications are that there needs to be an increased level of connectedness between school and our students and that specific academic and social-emotional supports need to be present to meet the needs of all students.

“We also need to be more deliberate in engaging parents and stakeholders regarding the importance of attendance for student growth and development,” Barlow said. “For this reason, we have introduced a new outreach campaign with the theme of Strive for Less Than Five absences this school year.

 The campaign consists of PSAs, posters, resources for parents and other materials that local schools will begin introducing as part of their ongoing outreach efforts.

During the event, two local students — Amari Solorzano of West High School and Emery McDonald-Delozier of  Edison Middle School — shared their stories of overcoming obstacles to improve their school attendance. Each was awarded the Daryl Thiesen Attendance Improvement Award. Thiesen, who passed away in February from complications with ALS, was a longtime employee of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office who worked tirelessly for at-risk students in our community, especially around school attendance.

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